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An Optimistic Pessimist's Review of the Giants First Half

It seems like a hundred years since the Giants were 1-2

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    One of the most unusual drives you'll ever see in football took place in the fourth quarter of the Giants victory over the Seahawks on Sunday. In truth, it was essentially the entire fourth quarter of the game as backup quarterback Sage Rosenfels led the team on a 19-play, 78-yard drive of all running plays that ate 13 minutes of the clock.

    There wasn't anything particularly special about the Giants' execution, not beyond Kevin Gilbride resisting the urge to try and be clever anyway. What was notable about the drive was the way the Seahawks steadfastly refused to line up and play football with the slightest bit of pride. They were content to just let the Giants milk the clock and end the game without even feigning interest in saving face at the end of a 41-7 home loss that was embarrassing even if they were playing without half their starting lineup.

    It was a fitting end to a first half of the Giants season that's featured plenty of convincing victories over third-rate opposition. There have been plenty of stretches of this first half where the Giants have resembled a team worthy of the praise being lavished at their feet, but all of them have been mitigated by the fact that all six of their victories have come against teams that are going nowhere fast this season. And in all but the Seahawks game, they've been doubly mitigated by equally long stretches of sloppy, undisciplined play that makes your mind keep turning back to the two blowout losses to the two good teams that the Giants have played thus far.

    Even more than that, the mind keeps reeling back to the Giants team that looked even more dominant against five equally weak opponents to start the 2009 season before the wheels came spinning off the bus. It feels wrong to reach that far back into the history book when Osi Umenyiora has returned to prominence and when Hakeem Nicks has taken the leap to elite receiver status, but we can't help it because we can't help wondering what will happen to the Giants when they face teams that are actually capable of exposing their flaws.

    The two biggest of those flaws are both things that good teams make their livelihood out of exploiting. The Giants took a brief break from their giving ways on Sunday, but they have been turning the ball over far too often to feel comfortable against a defense that's playing more than a handful of starters and/or isn't coached by Wade Phillips. The other big flaw is a still suspect offensive line that saw two more of its members leave Sunday's game with injury. David Diehl's departure might be a blessing in disguise, but the aging and fragile group might reach a breaking point at the wrong moment for a Giants team with designs on playing at least 11 more games this season. 

    That said, there are more reasons to feel good than glum. No team should ever apologize for beating the teams thrown in their path and the fact of the matter is that there's a lot more chaff than wheat in the NFL this season. They've got two games against the Eagles and trips to Minnesota and Green Bay to test themselves against legitimate competition, but the schedule is otherwise light on decent opposition. Ten wins is actually the pessimist's prediction for the team's final total, which should be more than enough to get them a berth in the postseason.

    Predictions about how much more than that is in their future will have to wait a while longer, but it's a pretty good sign that calls for Tom Coughlin's head are greeted with laughter these days instead of agreeable nods.  

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City and is a contributor to FanHouse.com and ProFootballTalk.com in addition to his duties for NBCNewYork.com. You can follow him on Twitter.

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